Inside the Composition

Learn Composition for Life!

An immersive look at photography composition in a brand new way

by Matt Kloskowski

(Course Releases Late December 2020)

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My brand new Inside the Composition course will be released in Late December just in time for the New Year. This course has been 2 years in the making and I promise it won’t disappoint. 

You can put your name on the “I’M INTERESTED” list and you’ll be the first to know plus get a free bonus gift when I announce the course (No purchase will be necessariy for the free gift).

The biggest composition challenge I have is…

49 Comments

  1. Leonard

    Matt, you are a terrific photographer teacher, and I am one of your fans. This video was well-done and very helpful. I wish you would do more editing videos for ON1 Photo Raw, as that is the software I use.

    Reply
  2. Ron

    Matt

    Thanks for all your videos.

    Merry Christmas

    Reply
  3. Ed Adams

    Love how you can take a subject lots of people talk about and make it simple and easy to understand! Is this possible with on1 2021?

    Reply
    • Matt

      Hi Ed and thank you. You can “sort of” do it in ON1. Duplicate a layer, resize it and get creative with masking should do the trick.

      Reply
  4. Sherry Laflamme

    Omg, I did not know that. Just thought the rule of thirds could be used either way. Now I know better. Thanks Matt and Happy Holidays to you and yours!!

    Reply
  5. William Brennan

    Matt, thank you for a thought provoking discussion. Your discussion of exceptions to your rule, in my view, is the most important part of the discussion and probably deserves more consideration.

    Bill Brennan

    Reply
  6. Taufiq

    My challenge is I don’t slow myself down enough and think about what I’m about to shoot. Often, I would take the shot(s) and then when I look at the images on the computer, I would think of different ways to make it better. Thanks for sharing Matt. Merry Christmas!

    Reply
  7. Leon Flack

    Hi something Matt mentioned to me a couple of weeks ago; if you’re undecided, you can always take a couple of shots with different angles and decide which one works best for you on your computer when you get back home. Happy shooting everyone, Merry Xmas and stay safe …

    Reply
  8. Capt._Jim

    Hi Matt;
    While I agree with your premise regarding the 2/3-1/3 rule, I’d like to offer an exception to that rule. I fished out on the Atlantic Ocean which often times had a way of disrupting that rule, by having the sky be the main character in the story.
    One particular photo that I took back in 1987 as we were running in before the storm that eventually became the “Blizzard of 1978”, afforded me a chance to take a series of shots of one hell of a dynamic sky with a darkening sea, one of which hangs on my office wall.
    While we were lucky enough to make it ashore as the storm began to really intensify, the photos had an even rougher time of it. Some days later while they were at a lab being developed (1978 remember), the lab lost power & some of the photos were pretty well damaged if not lost.
    Luckily my pre-storm photo was one of the survivors, & my exception to the rule still hangs there to remind me, that some time “Mother Nature” is the one who makes the exception to the rules.

    Reply
    • Gary

      Well done Matt
      Always great tips there,
      Thank you
      Regards,
      Gary
      …………AU

      Reply
  9. Adam

    Many years ago as a young photographer I was taught to compose with the camera in hand, assessing various perspective before affixing the camera to a tripod. It’s a valuable technique which facilitates composition and frequently leads to better photographs.

    Reply
  10. Gerald Hughes

    Thanks Matt, your quote: “why are you here” really resonated with me. After all, I can shoot the sky from my back yard.
    I have taken many of your courses, LR, PS, Compositing & Texture. I will also now have to take Composition.
    Death, where is thy sting?

    Reply
    • Matt

      Thanks Gerald. I wish I had said what you said “I can shoot the sky from my back yard”. That’s a great way to put it. Best!

      Reply
  11. Evelyn

    I was in a photo group in the Tetons and took a cool picture(I thought) with a nice landscape, of something but with the Tetons as a background, and, then, the group leader asked to see my shot… When I showed it to him, he only asked one question – “Where’s the magic?” That’s what I’d forgotten to ask myself. It’s a paraphrase of your question about what’s important… And it’s a question I’ve learned to ask myself more and more often! It’s the part that goes into the 2/3 of the image…

    Thank you for the reminder!

    Reply
  12. Joe Janik

    I went back and looked at a bunch of my photos and, good news, I tend to follow this “rule” when I shoot. I did find a lot of shots where the sky was 50/50 with the foreground and on most of them I said “What were you thinking?” because they were not anywhere near as good. While there have been times when the sky has been the main subject, keeping closer to 80/20 is the way to go. Thanks for explaining what I’ve been thinking. As a retired instructor I find your teaching methods top notch.

    Reply
    • Matt

      Thanks Joe! Glad it helps. And I do 80/20 a lot too. It’s a good ratio for sky. Take care!

      Reply
  13. Ed Ritter

    Thanks Matt. As always, you gave very good tips with great examples and descriptions. I also like that you pointed out that there are always exceptions. I remember one photo that I took of a sunrise over my backyard after a major snow. The sky was definitely the subject with the dramatic clouds and colors, and I really didn’t care much about the foreground (just get a few roofs and trees to provide a frame of reference). So you are right, there are always exceptions. But generally I believe you are correct. The subject isn’t typically the sky. On the other hand, I guess I am weird … I do spend a lot of time looking at the sky.

    Reply
    • Matt

      I get it Ed. Skies can be amazing. But they’re something that I think don’t make that “next level” of photograph. Great to enjoy, but I think most people want a bit more out of their photography which is why I created the video and really gave some thought to how much sky we’re including. By the way… I live at the beach and look at the sky constantly and think… “I wish I had some foreground”. When that happens I sit back with my drink and just enjoy 🙂 Thanks!

      Reply
  14. Terry Salmonson

    I agree that the foreground has a lot of interest but the sky has a wonderful range of colors. The way I would shoot it would be to lower the camera so I could fill the 1/3 foreground with the interesting rocks. A wider angle lens might be appropriate. I would stop the camera down to increase the depth of field and focus about 8 feet in front of the camera to be sure to get a sharp foreground. I would expose for the foreground and bracket 7 shots. Then I would refocus at infinity, expose for the sky and bracket 7 again. Now we have the raw material to composite the the best foreground and sky by using edit in in Lightroom to Photoshop. In lightroom I’d use the gradation tool to darken the sky in the composite and bring out the color and add impact.

    Reply
    • Matt

      Hi Terry. Getting down any lower in many situations is exactly what I try to avoid and I cover it specifically in my upcoming course. Had I gotten down any lower in this case, the rocks would have intruded and “blocked” the photo. I’ve got lots of examples where this is a bad thing. But… again… there’s rule and there’s always reasons to break them 🙂

      Reply
  15. Bob G

    Matt you have a way to briefly summarize what’s important. Plus you pointed out in the end the exceptions (Aurora, Milky Way). Thanks for a great brief overview of Landscape Composition.

    Reply
    • Matt

      Thanks Bob!

      Reply
  16. Richard

    thanks Matt, great and quick feature … really appreciate your tips and site

    Reply
  17. Guy

    Generally I agree. However, I think the more important thing you said is “what are you there to photograph”? Which to me boils down to “what has drawn your attention and captured your interest”?

    Reply
    • Matt

      Hello Guy. I agree. And rarely is the sky “why” you’re somewhere. So my hope is to get people to avoid giving it too much weight in the photo even if it is spectacular.

      Reply
  18. Bett

    I struggle with composition and foreground focus. Your concept of 2/3 vs 1/3 makes sense to me especially if your foreground is your main subject as well as keeping it simple and capturing the viewers eye.

    I look forward to your course.

    Reply
  19. Larry

    Makes a lot of sense, but as I was watching that sky, I thought “wouldn’t a medium GND filter on the lens make an even more dramatic effect?”

    Reply
    • Matt

      Hi Larry. I don’t use any GND’s on my camera for a few reasons I wrote about here.
      Now… if recording “in the field” video were a bigger part of my job, then I would have to use them because it’s not as easy to add a GND in post as it is on a still photo. But for stills I got rid of them years ago: https://mattk.com/why-graduated-neutral-density-filters-are-dead-to-me/

      Reply
  20. John Willson

    Great tip, Matt. Love your tutorials — thanks for all you do. Hope you and those you love have a very blessed and joyous Christmas!

    Reply
  21. Neal Abello

    Matt,

    Thanks for opening a new and different perspective on my learning more about landscape composition. As always, you make it so clear. A real forehead slapper, “why didn’t I think of that?” I am looking forward to your new composition course. In the meantime, May you and your family have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

    Reply
    • Matt

      You too Neal!

      Reply
  22. Nicholas Souter

    Interesting experience shared – worthwhile points made – did it really need 8 min 17 seconds to make your point though?

    Reply
    • Matt

      You could have easily stopped when I said 2/3 and 1/3 earlier and showed a few examples couldn’t you have? And did you really have to write that or could you have simply said “Thank you” and moved on or written nothing at all?

      Reply
      • Dan Patton

        Good answer Matt, there’s one in every crowd!

        Merry Christmas to you and your family, and Mattk.com!

        Keep up the good work, I enjoy all you do for us!

        Reply
  23. Nico

    I’m agree with that. It is a support only if, there’s nothing interesting into sky. As you said, Milky Way, Orion, aurora, moon eclipse would it be the inverse. But for general landscape, 1/3 of the sky, is a support …

    Reply
  24. Hal Kahn

    I don’t shoot landscapes, but I think the core of your argument is to include in the frame whatever it is you find interesting. I mostly photograph people against seamless paper, so my compositions center on faces. I am usually accused of “bullseye” composition, but I simply don’t like negative space.
    More importantly, Matt, my old stomach no longer tolerates alcohol so I hereby authorize you to have my portions of all the bourbon, beer and wine that I could have enjoyed when I was your age.
    Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy 2021.

    Reply
    • Matt

      Hi Hal. Thanks! The core is always to include whatever is interesting. However, I think in the case of landscapes, even if the sky was super interesting all the way from horizon on one side to the other, I still don’t think you include more than 1/3-ish of it. It just changes the overall composition of the photo in a poor way (in most cases). The reason I say that is because a popular phrase is “If the sky is amazing include a lot of it – if not include less”. And I disagree with that. Even if it’s amazing, it typically doesn’t deserve more weight in the photo that 1/3. Thanks again!

      Reply
  25. Peter Kingma

    In general I think you are right, but there are some sky shots…

    Reply
    • Matt

      Always a reason to break just about every “artistic” rule right? But I’d say this one holds up for about 90% of shots out there.

      Reply
  26. Ralph V

    Taking my time and really thinking things through. I suffer from “this photo could have been so much better if I had only……….”. And “if I had only” includes – if I had only looked at the proposed shot from all angles, walked around to see if there was a better vantage point, analyzed all the elements that might end up in the frame, eliminated unwelcome elements by simply approaching the scene differently, not relied on post-production for every flaw that could have been avoided, understood how this shot could be best expressed (Still? Part of a Video?) and shooting with a particular aspect ratio in mind, asked myself if any motion in the scene would benefit from a slower shutter speed and, of course, asked myself “why am I here — to shoot pretty sky or to capture the elements unique to the location?”

    Good tutorial, Matt. Made me stop and think.

    Thank you!

    Reply
  27. Greg Asnis

    Matt- another clear and inspirational photographic tip by you, Thanks. Besides the 1/3 sky and 2/3 foreground suggestion, your brief mention of tilting the tripod mounted camera down is a home run. Thanks again for helping me grow a little more in my understanding of photography./Greg

    Reply
    • Matt

      Thanks Greg. Glad to help!

      Reply
  28. Robert I Hart

    What to include, what to exclude. How to keep the composition simple yet impactful. Get up close and personal or give the grander view?

    Reply
  29. Tim

    It would be nice to see the full view of a landscape and how you break it down into your final composition. Taking massive information in of a scene and disecting it down into several compositions and finally seeing the end composition.

    Reply
  30. Stephanie Hellmann

    Current composition challenge is how much bourbon to put in the egg nog!!! LOL
    Thanks, Matt, for the video. Merry Christmas!

    Reply
    • Matt

      I see what you did there! Too funny! Thanks! 🙂

      Reply
  31. BARRY RITTER

    Perspective, between what I see visually vs. what I would like to see in my photo. For example, I have an image of a lighthouse (Portland, Maine, Head Lighthouse) at the edge of a jetty overlooking a body of water that has a sailboat in it. The boat is too small in the distance which makes it look a bit unbalanced compared to the lighthouse. Because it was done late in the afternoon, the sun on the lighthouse and boat look distorted when I try in PS to enlarge the boat for balance.

    Reply
  32. Richard Fisher

    (1). Filter images quickly. I love to shoot and but don’t like to sort afterwards.

    (2) optimize my images. Seeing what needs to be fixed

    Reply
    • Matt

      Thanks Richard. Not quite sure that’s a compositional challenge as much as it’s editing, but I see where you’re going. Thanks 🙂

      Reply

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